Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena bus manufacturer Wrightbus poised to announce investor this week

But bus firm denies Chinese company is in the running

Boris Johnson as mayor of London on a Wrightbus
Boris Johnson as mayor of London on a Wrightbus
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Ballymena bus manufacturer Wrightbus is this week tipped to announce it has secured the support of a new investor - but has denied reports of overtures from Chinese vehicle giant BYD.

The Co Antrim company said BYD in China was not in the running to make an investment in the business, and had not made an offer.

The Daily Telegraph reported at the weekend that BYD was interested in rescuing the company, which employs 1,400 people and is one of Northern Ireland's best-known manufacturers.

A spokeswoman for Wrightbus dismissed the reports.

However, it's understood that an announcement on support from another company will be made later this week.

BYD makes rechargeable batteries as well as vehicles such as trucks, forklifts, buses and battery-powered bicycles. It has supplied batteries for electric London buses and Scottish bus giant Alexander Dennis.

BYD, which is based in Shenzhen, did not respond to a request for comment. But according to the Daily Telegraph, its Europe managing director Isbrand Ho has said: "Wrightbus is an iconic company in Northern Ireland and the UK with talented and skilled people.

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"We have also been working closely with the UK Government in helping to fulfil its zero emission ambitions, a process that started several years ago when Boris Johnson, now the UK Prime Minister, was the mayor of London.

"We will continue to monitor all opportunities in the UK."

Wrightbus' most high-profile deal of recent years was a contract to supply 1,000 London buses, a deal championed by then mayor Boris Johnson. Wrightbus announced last month that it had hired business advisers Deloitte to help find an investor as it battles increased pressures, including a decline in the UK bus market.

The Daily Telegraph said that BYD was then approached about a potential rescue deal. While it makes electric buses with Alexander Dennis, Wrightbus partners with a French battery company Foresee for its electric buses.

However, a spokesman for Foresee told the Daily Telegraph it was not planning to buy Wrightbus.

Last October, owner Wrights Group declared an 86% collapse in its 2017 pre-tax profits from £10.7m to just £1.5m after a £37m slump in its turnover.

The Wrights Group is not due to make its 2018 finances public for another two months.

Last week members of the Wright family put two disused factories at its former site in Galgorm near Ballymena on the market for a combined £1.9m. The factories had been leased to the company, which has since largely relocated to the former JTI Gallaher's site.

Belfast Telegraph

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